Sunday, March 20, 2016

Batman and Robin Eternal #13 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue focuses almost exclusively on Cassandra, in the past and the present, giving us the information that we need to understand her.

In the past, we get a quick but thorough tour through her nightmarish childhood, as we see her yearn to connect with the other children at the Nursery.  As we've seen, Mother has demanded that she be segregated from "her" children, so Cassandra is forced to watch them from the sidelines.  The Sculptor shows her some sympathy, but even she has a line:  when Cassandra hugs her -- replicating the affection that she's seen Mother showing to the other children -- the Sculptor recoils and tells her that she's made to be something different. Years later, Batman assures her that she's a hero, because she rejected exactly these attempts to make her into a monster.  (It's also the conversation where he tells her to go to Dick with the thumb-drive if he doesn't survive the fight with the Joker.)

In the present, Cassandra has traveled to the Nursery, revealed to be located in the heart of a Russian diamond mine declared off-limits after it leaked toxic gas.  She confronts Orphan there, but he reveals that he's already killed all the children; their bodies are lying in an open pit.  This part is confusing, because it seems to contradict previous information.  For example, I thought that the Nursery was in Prague.  After all, isn't Mother shutting down that operation to start a new one, since Dick compromised it through his actions?  Are there other Nurseries out there, or were there only ever these two?  It's pretty unclear.

We can say somewhat definitively that Mother does seem to be killing off all her children, with the goal of starting a new phase.  One of the robot nannies that Cassandra encounters in the Nursery refers to the children coming home, so it also seems like Mother has somehow managed to get all her children to return to the Nursery to kill them.  (That really ups the ante, since it implies that the bodies lying in the pit aren't just the kids that were already at the Nursery.)  Dick and Harper arrive to save Cassandra, and Mother appears on the monitors to announce that she's detonating a nuclear weapon under the Nursery.  She originally wanted to take out everyone at the same time, but, even though Jason and Tim aren't there, she decides that it's too good of an opportunity to miss.  (Orphan is somewhat surprised that he's included in that culling.)

This issue isn't particularly strong, since Tynion takes a number of short-cuts to get us to the end.  After all, Dick and Harper magically arrive to save Cassandra, even though we're never told how they found her.  But, Tynion does get across the horror of Cassandra's childhood effectively.  Even though we haven't seen the moment where she rebels against Orphan (and the person that he wants her to become), we see here that she never really accepted his programming in the first place.  The weakest part of this issue is probably the sequence where Orphan is insisting that he's not a monster, that he's trying to make her something better, as Mother did for him.  We don't know enough of Orphan's own history to know why he's such a zealot, but this moment of emotion (or what passes for it for him) seems disingenuous.  Does he really think that Cassandra is going to buy that?  After all, he makes these statements as she's covered in the blood of the other children after he dropped her in the pit.  In other words, it seems a stretch.

It's pretty clear that Snyder and Tynion are moving us to the next phase of this series as Mother starts to put her plan into action.  We now know what we need to know about Cassandra and Orphan (for the time being):  it's time to see what Mother has up her sleeve.

*** (three of five stars)

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